National Film Registry Adds “Brokeback Mountain,” “My Fair Lady,” and More

Posted on December 12, 2018 at 12:42 pm

The Library of Congress announced Wednesday that the films Jurassic Park, Brokeback Mountain and My Fair Lady are among the 25 movies tapped for preservation this year.

“These cinematic treasures must be protected because they document our history, culture, hopes and dreams,” Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement.

A forbidden love affair, the ravages of alcoholism, an animated classic, a kiss that broke the color barrier and dinosaurs returned from extinction represent the diversity of the class of 2018. This year’s films span 107 years, from 1898 to 2005. They include blockbusters, documentaries, silent movies, animation and independent films. The 2018 selections bring the number of films in the registry to 750, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of 1.3 million.

The public can tune into Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at 8 p.m. E.T. tonight to view a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. The Librarian joins movie critic Leonard Maltin to discuss the films. Also, select titles from 30 years of the National Film Registry are also freely available online in the National Screening Room. Follow the conversation about the class of 2018 on Twitter at @librarycongress and #NatFilmRegistry.

Among this year’s selections are Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 thriller “Rebecca”; film noir classics “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945) and “The Lady From Shanghai” (1947), which was directed by Orson Welles; Disney’s 1950 animation “Cinderella”; “Days of Wine and Roses,” Blake Edwards’ uncompromising commentary about alcoholism (1962); James L. Brooks’ 1987 treatise on the tumultuous world of television news, “Broadcast News” and Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking 1993 tale about the rebirth of dinosaurs, “Jurassic Park.”

Two contemporary Western dramas headline this year’s list: the 1961 “One-Eyed Jacks,” Marlon Brando’s only directorial endeavor, and Ang Lee’s critically acclaimed “Brokeback Mountain.” Released in 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” also has the distinction of becoming the newest film on the registry while the 1891 “Newark Athlete” actuality is the oldest.

“I didn’t intend to make a statement with ‘Brokeback Mountain,’” Lee said. “I simply wanted to tell a purely Western love story between two cowboys. To my great surprise, the film ended up striking a deep chord with audiences; the movie became a part of the culture, a reflection of the darkness and light—of violent prejudice and enduring love—in the rocky landscape of the American heart. More than a decade has passed since ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was released, but I hope that this film, a small movie with wide open spaces, continues to express something both fresh and fundamental about my adopted country.”

Music is spotlighted in the popular 1949 musical “On the Town,” starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin as three sailors on shore leave in New York City. Also included is the seminal music-festival film “Monterey Pop,” featuring some of the biggest names in music. It was directed by D.A. Pennebaker and produced by John Phillips and Lou Adler.

“I am extremely pleased and proud as I am sure John Phillips would be that ‘Monterey Pop’ has been selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry,” said Adler. “Pleased that the film brings recognition to the artists involved in a cultural explosion of music festivals and celebrates a generation in tune with music and love.

Proud to have collaborated with D.A. Pennebaker who crafted a film that perfectly documented the time, the music and introduced a genre of film making to be honored forever…long after June 16, 17 and 18, 1967 as proven by this selection.”

“It was for us a vast undertaking,” Pennebaker said.  “We were using all five of our homemade cameras, some with twelve hundred foot reels we’d never tried before, praying they’d all work, and that it turned out as wonderful as it did I can still scarcely believe. But every camera was guided by an artist, some for the first time, looking for the poetry of the music and its artists as never before. It was an inspired crew and every member of it earned this selection into the National Film Registry. They were the best.”

Several films on the registry showcased the ethnic diversity of American cinema. Footage from the Dixon-Wanamaker expedition in 1908 provides glimpses into the lives and culture of various Native American tribes. This year’s list also includes a contemporary film showcasing Native Americans in “Smoke Signals” (1998). It was the first feature film to be written, directed and co-produced by American Indians.

The 1997 “Eve’s Bayou” was written and directed by black female director Kasi Lemmons and co-produced by Samuel L. Jackson, who stars in this family drama.

“It’s such an honor to return from production on my fifth film, ‘Harriet,’ to find that my first, ‘Eve’s Bayou,’ is being included in the National Film Registry,” Lemmons said. “As a Black woman filmmaker it is particularly meaningful to me, and to future generations of filmmakers, that the Library of Congress values diversity of culture, perspective and expression in American cinema and recognizes ‘Eve’s Bayou’ as worthy of preservation.  I’m thrilled that ‘Eve’s Bayou’ is being included in the class of 2018!”

The short animated film, “Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People,” was produced by one of the first black female animators, Ayoka Chenzira. “For my independently produced animated experimental film to be included in the National Film Registry is quite an honor,” said Chenzira. “I never imagined that ‘Hair Piece’ would be considered to have cultural significance outside of its original intent, which was a conversation and a love letter to Black women (and some men) about identity, beauty and self-acceptance in the face of tremendous odds.”

African-Americans are also shown kissing in a 29-second silent film. Shot in 1898, it is the earliest known footage of black intimacy on screen. Other silent film titles include the 1917 “The Girl Without a Soul” and Buster Keaton’s 1924 “The Navigator.” In 2013, the Library of Congress released a report that conclusively determined that 70 percent of the nation’s silent feature films have been lost forever and only 14 percent exist in their original 35 mm format.

“The Informer,” the 1935 drama that takes place during the Irish Rebellion of 1922, becomes the 11thfilm directed by John Ford to be named to the registry, the most of any other director. Other titles on the registry include the 1953 “Pickup on South Street,” the 1955 “Bad Day at Black Rock” and the Academy Award-winning Vietnam documentary “Hearts and Minds” (1974), directed by Peter Davis.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. More information about the National Film Registry can be found at loc.gov/film.

The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of Library specialists. Also considered were more than 6,300 titles nominated by the public.  Nominations for next year will be accepted through the fall at loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/nominate/.

In addition to advising the Librarian of Congress on the annual selection titles to the National Film Registry, the NFPB also provides counsel on national preservation planning policy. In that capacity, it issued the following statement: “In addition to its preservation message, the NFPB encourages colleges and universities to enhance their focus on the history of cinema as an original and integrated art. Visual storytelling has grown from its early 20th-century origins to become a literary medium that needs more recognition.”

Many titles named to the registry have already been preserved by the copyright holders, filmmakers or other archives. In cases where a selected title has not already been preserved, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film will be preserved by some entity and available for future generations, either through the Library’s motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers.

The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (loc.gov/avconservation/). It is home to more than 7 million collection items.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

2018 National Film Registry (alphabetical order)

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Though only 81 minutes in length, “Bad Day” packs a punch. Spencer Tracy stars as Macreedy, a one-armed man who arrives unexpectedly one day at the sleepy desert town of Black Rock. He is just as tight-lipped at first about the reason for his visit as the residents of Black Rock are about the details of their town. However, when Macreedy announces that he is looking for a former Japanese-American Black Rock resident named Komoko, town skeletons suddenly burst into the open. In addition to Tracy, the standout cast includes Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Dean Jagger. Director John Sturges displays the western landscape to great advantage in this CinemaScope production.

Broadcast News (1987) James L. Brooks wrote, produced and directed this comedy set in the fast-paced, tumultuous world of television news. Shot mostly in dozens of locations around the Washington, D.C. area, the film stars Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks. Brooks makes the most of his everyman persona serving as Holly Hunter’s romantic back-up plan while she pursues the handsome but vacuous Hurt. Against the backdrop of broadcast journalism (and various debates about journalist ethics), a grown-up romantic comedy plays out in a smart, savvy and fluff-free story whose humor is matched only by its honesty.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) “Brokeback Mountain,” a contemporary Western drama that won the Academy Award for best screenplay (by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) and Golden Globe awards for best drama, director (Ang Lee) and screenplay, depicts a secret and tragic love affair between two closeted gay ranch hands. They furtively pursue a 20-year relationship despite marriages and parenthood until one of them dies violently, reportedly by accident, but possibly, as the surviving lover fears, in a brutal attack. Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the short story upon which the film was based, described it as “a story of destructive rural homophobia.” Haunting in its unsentimental depiction of longing, lonesomeness, pretense, sexual repression and ultimately love, “Brokeback Mountain” features Heath Ledger’s remarkable performance that conveys a lifetime of self-torment through a pained demeanor, near inarticulate speech and constricted, lugubrious movements. In his review, Newsweek’s David Ansen wrotes that the film was “a watershed in mainstream movies, the first gay love story with A-list Hollywood stars.” “Brokeback Mountain” has become an enduring classic.

Cinderella (1950) It would take the enchanted magic of Walt Disney and his extraordinary team to revitalize a story as old as Cinderella. Yet, in 1950, Disney and his animators did just that with this version of the classic tale. Sparkling songs, high-production value and bright voice performances have made this film a classic from its premiere. Though often told and repeated across all types of media, Disney’s lovely take has become the definitive version of this classic story about a girl, a prince and a single glass slipper. Breathtaking animation fills every scene, including what was reportedly Walt Disney’s favorite of all Disney animation sequences: the fairy godmother transforming Cinderella’s “rags” into an exquisite gown and glass slippers.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962) “Days of Wine and Roses” marked another in a series of Hollywood classics on the touchy subject of alcoholism. Previous examples on the theme include “The Lost Weekend” and “Come Back, Little Sheba.” Though his career prior to “Days” had been noted for a deft touch in light comedy, in this Academy Award-nominated performance, Jack Lemmon plays a hard-drinking San Francisco public-relations man who drags his wife Lee Remick into the horrific descent into alcoholism. Director Blake Edwards pulls no punches in this uncompromisingly bleak film. Henry Mancini composed the moving score, best remembered for the title song he and Johnny Mercer wrote, which won an Academy Award for best original song.

Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency (1908) The original nitrate footage that comprises the 1908 “Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency” was discovered in a Montana antique store in 1982 and subsequently donated to the Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution. It is the only known surviving film footage from the 1908 Rodman Wanamaker-sponsored expedition to record American Indian life in the west, filmed and produced both for an educational screening at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia and to document what Wanamaker and photographer Joseph K. Dixon considered a “vanishing race.” Dixon and his son Roland shot motion picture film as well as thousands of photographs (most of the photographs are archived at Indiana University). This film captures life on Crow Agency, Crow Fair and a recreation of the Battle of Little Big Horn featuring four of Custer’s Crow scouts. Films from later Wanamaker expeditions are archived at the National Archives and the American Museum of Natural History. The original film was photochemically preserved at Cinema Arts in 1983.

Eve’s Bayou (1997)    Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons and co-produced by co-star Samuel L. Jackson, “Eve’s Bayou” proved one of the indie surprises of the 1990s. The film tells a Southern gothic tale about a 10-year-old African-American girl who, during one long, hot Louisiana summer in 1962, discovers some harsh truths beneath her genteel family’s fragile façade. The film’s standout cast includes Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Diahann Carroll, Lisa Nicole Carson, Branford Marsalis and the remarkable Jurnee Smolett, who plays the lead. The tag line of this film was very apropos: “The secrets that hold us together can also tear us apart.”

The Girl Without a Soul (1917) George Eastman Museum founding film curator James Card was a passionate devotee of silent film director John H. Collins’ work. It is through his influence that the museum is the principal repository of the director’s few extant films. As the expert on Collins’ legacy, the museum said he is “one of the great ‘What if…?’ figures of American cinema—a brilliantly creative filmmaker who went from being a costume department assistant to a major director within four short years, before dying at the age of 31 in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Collins’ films show both a subtle understanding of human nature and often breathtakingly daring cinematography and editing. The ‘Girl Without a Soul’ stars Viola Dana (to whom Collins was married) in a dual role as twin sisters, one of whom is a gifted violinist, and the other, a deeply troubled girl jealous of her sister’s abilities and the love bestowed upon her by their violinmaker father. This jealousy and the violinist sister’s unworldliness lead both into turbulent moral conflict, which takes considerable fortitude from both to overcome.” “The Girl Without a Soul” has been preserved by George Eastman Museum.

Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984) “Hair Piece” is an insightful and funny short animated film examining the problems that African-American women have with their hair.  Generally considered the first black woman animator, director Ayoka Chenzira was a key figure in the development of African-American filmmakers in the 1980s through her own films and work to expand opportunities for others. Writing in the New York Times, critic Janet Maslin lauded this eccentric yet jubilant film. She notes the narrator “tells of everything from the difficulty of keeping a wig on straight to the way in which Vaseline could make a woman’s hair ”sound like the man in ‘The Fly’ saying ‘Help me!’”

Hearts and Minds (1974) Director Peter Davis describes his Academy Award-winning documentary “Hearts and Minds” (1974) as “an attempt to examine why we went to Vietnam, what we did there and what the experience did to us.” Compared by critics at the time to Marcel Ophuls’ acclaimed documentary “The Sorrow and the Pity” (1971), “Hearts and Minds,” similarly addressed the wartime effects of national myths and prejudices by juxtaposing interviews of government officials, soldiers, peasants and parents, cinéma vérité scenes shot on the home front and in South Vietnam, clips from ideological Cold War movies, and horrific archival footage. Author Frances FitzGerald praised the documentary as “the most moving film I’ve ever seen on Vietnam, because, for the first time, the camera lingers on the faces of Vietnamese and one hears their voices.” Author David Halberstam said it “brilliantly catches … the hidden, unconscious racism of the war.” Others from both ends of the political spectrum chided it as manipulative propaganda that oversimplified complexities.

Hud (1963)    Paul Newman received his third Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the title character, the handsome, surly and unscrupulous bad-boy son of a Texas rancher who locks horns with his father over business and family matters. Loosely based on Larry McMurtry’s debut novel, “Horseman, Pass By,” the film received seven Academy Award nominations, winning three: Patricia Neal (best actress), Melvyn Douglas (best supporting actor) and James Wong Howe (black-and-white cinematography). Motion Picture Academy President John Bailey in 2017 chronicled the production of the film and summed up some of his impressions of the film’s relevance 55 years after its release: “Naked and narcissistic self-interest have always been a dark undercurrent to the limpid surface stream of American optimism and justice, but it is not a reach to see the character of Hud as an avatar of the troubling cynicism of that other side of American Populism — the side that espouses a fake concern for one’s fellow man while lining one’s own pockets. Hud, a lothario at the wheel of his crashed convertible, raising a shroud of dust clouds in its trail, is nothing more than a flimflam 19th century snake-oil salesman and carnival barker. His type erupts over and over onto America’s psyche like a painful pustule.”

The Informer (1935)    This marks the 11th film directed by John Ford to be named to the National Film Registry, the most of any director. “The Informer” depicts with brutal realism the life of an informant during the Irish Rebellion of 1922, who turns in his best friend and then sees the walls closing in on him in return. Critic Andre Sennwald, writing in the New York Times, praised Ford’s direction: “In his hands ‘The Informer’ becomes at the same time a striking psychological study of a gutter Judas and a raw impressive picture of the Dublin underworld during the Black and Tan terror.” Ford and cinematographer Joseph August borrowed from German expressionism to convey the Dublin atmosphere. To this point, Ford had compiled a solid workmanlike career as he learned his craft. “The Informer” placed him in the top echelon of American film directors and over the next 20 years he crafted numerous other classics, from the 1939 “Stagecoach” through the 1962 “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

Jurassic Park (1993) The concept of people somehow existing in the age of dinosaurs (or dinosaurs somehow existing in the age of people) has been explored in film and on television numerous times.  No treatment, however, has ever been done with more skill, flair or popcorn-chomping excitement than this 1993 blockbuster. Set on a remote island where a man’s toying with evolution has run amok, this Steven Spielberg classic ranks as the epitome of the summer blockbuster. “Jurassic Park” was the top public vote-getter this year.

The Lady From Shanghai (1947) The camera is the star in this stylish film noir. “Lady From Shanghai” is renowned for its stunning set pieces, the “Aquarium” scene, “Hall of Mirrors” climax, baroque cinematography and convoluted plot. Director Orson Welles had burst on the scene with “Citizen Kane” in 1941 and “The Magnificent Ambersons” in 1942, but had increasingly become seen as difficult to work with by the studios. As a result, Welles spent most of his career outside the studio sphere. “The Lady From Shanghai” marked one of his last films under a major studio (Columbia) with Welles and the executives frequently clashing over the budget, final editing of the film and the release date.

Leave Her to Heaven (1945) Darkness and claustrophobia mark the visual style of many film noirs: the use of black-and-white or gloomy grays, low-key lighting, striking contrasts between light and dark, shadows, nighttime or interior settings and rain-soaked streets. “Leave Her to Heaven” proves the magnificent exception. Filmed in vibrant, three-strip Technicolor, many pivotal scenes occur in spectacular outdoor locations, shot by famed cinematographer Leon Shamroy in Arizona and California. A classic femme fatale, Gene Tierney stars as Ellen, whose charisma and stunning visage mask a possessive, sociopathic soul triggered by “loving too much.” Anyone who stands between her and those she obsessively loves tend to meet “accidental” deaths, most famously a teen boy who drowns in a chilling scene. Martin Scorsese has labeled “Heaven” as among his all-time favorite films and Tierney one of film’s most underrated actresses. “Leave Her to Heaven” makes a supremely compelling case for these sentiments.

Monterey Pop (1968) This seminal music-festival film captures the culture of the time and performances from iconic musical talent. “Monterey Pop” also established the template for multi-camera documentary productions of this kind, predating both “Woodstock” and “Gimme Shelter.” In addition to director D. A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles and others provided the superb camerawork. Performers include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Hugh Masekela, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garfunkel, and Ravi Shankar. As he recalled in a 2006 Washington Post article, Pennebaker decided to shoot and record the film using five portable 16mm cameras equipped with synchronized sound recording devices, while producers Lou Adler and John Phillips (Mamas and Papas) sagely had the whole concert filmed and recorded, and further enhanced the sound by hiring Wally Heider and his state-of-the-art mobile recording studio.

My Fair Lady (1964) In the 1950s and 1960s, besieged by shifts in demographics and having much of its audience syphoned off by television, film studios knew they had to go big in their entertainment in order to lure people back to the theater. This film version of the musical “My Fair Lady” epitomized this approach with use of wide-screen technologies.  Based on the sparkling stage musical (inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion”), “My Fair Lady” came to the big screen via the expert handling of director George Cukor. Cecil Beaton’s costume designs provided further panache, along with his, Gene Allen’s and George James Hopkins’ art and set direction. The film starred Rex Harrison, repeating his career-defining stage role as Professor Henry Higgins, and Audrey Hepburn (whose singing voice was dubbed by frequent “ghoster” Marni Nixon), as the Cockney girl, Eliza Doolittle. Though opulent in the extreme, all these elements blend perfectly to make “My Fair Lady” the enchanting entertainment that it remains today.

The Navigator (1924) Buster Keaton burst onto the scene in 1920 with the dazzling two-reeler “One Week.” His feature “The Navigator” proved a huge commercial success and put Keaton in the company of Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in terms of audience popularity and films eagerly awaited by critics. Decades after release, Pauline Kael reviewed the film: “Arguably, Buster Keaton’s finest — but amongst the Keaton riches can one be sure?” Keaton plays an inept, foppish millionaire whose idea of a marriage proposal involves crossing the street in a chauffeured car, handing flowers to his girlfriend and popping the question. Later the two accidentally become stranded at sea on an abandoned boat and Keaton proves his worth by conceiving ingenious work-arounds to ensure they survive. The silent era rarely saw films rife with more creativity and imaginative gags.

On the Town (1949)       Three sailors with 24 hours of shore leave in New York doesn’t sound like much to build a film around, but when Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin portray them under the sparkling direction of Stanley Donen (and Kelly), movie magic occurs. “On the Town” was based upon the Comden and Green Broadway musical of the same name. Shot on location all over New York City, the film carries over such splendid songs as “New York, New York,” the close-to-opening iconic scene with the sailor trio performing while still in their navy togs.  Female song-and-dance pros Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller match the guys step for step in the numerous musical numbers. “On the Town” represents the upbeat, post war musicals of the era, which summed up the national optimism of the period.

One-Eyed Jacks (1961) Based on the 1956 Charles Neider novel, “The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones” (a loose retelling of the story of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), this Western marks Marlon Brando’s sole directorial effort. “One-Eyed Jacks” displays his trademark introspection and offbeat quirkiness. Brando’s novel approach to updating the Western film genre marks it as a key work in the transition period from Classic Hollywood (1930s through 1950s) to the new era that began in the 1960s and continues to the present day. As director Martin Scorsese and others have said, this evolution from “Old Hollywood” to “New Hollywood” involved a change from filmmaking primarily being about profit-making to a period when many directors create motion pictures as personal artistic expression.

Pickup on South Street (1953) Samuel Fuller’s films are sometimes compared to the pulp novels of Mickey Spillane, though Fuller’s dynamic style dwarfs Spillane. With films often crass but always provocative, Fuller described his mantra of filmmaking: “Film is like a battleground, with love, hate, action, violence, death … in one word, emotion.” Considered by some as the archetypal Sam Fuller film and a nice summary of the main themes in his work, “Pickup on South Street” is a taut, Cold War thriller. The fast-paced plot follows a professional pickpocket who accidently lifts some secret microfilm from his mark. Patriotism or profit? Soon, the thief is being pursued not only by the woman he stole from, but also by Communist spies and U.S. government agents. The film culminates in a landmark brutal subway-based fight scene. It is arguably the classic anti-Communist film of the 1950s and a dazzling display of the seedy New York underlife. In particular, Thelma Ritter’s excellent tough-yet-nuanced performance as Moe Williams stands out and earned her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress, which was highly unusual for what was considered at the time a lurid and violent B-movie.

Rebecca (1940) “Rebecca,” Daphne du Maurier’s most famous book (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”), found its perfect cinematic interpreter in Alfred Hitchcock, here directing his first American motion picture. Powerhouse producer David O. Selznick had just imported the “master of suspense” from his native England. Laurence Olivier stars as Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine in her breakthrough role co-stars as Maxim’s new (and never given a first name) wife. However, it is two other women who dominate the film—the intimidating housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (played by Judith Anderson) and the film’s title woman, the deceased first Mrs. de Winter whose powerful shadow still hangs heavily over this great estate and all its inhabitants. Winner of the Oscar for best picture that year, “Rebecca” is stylish, suspenseful and a classic.

The Shining (1980) Director Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s terrifying novel has only grown in esteem through the years. The film is inventive in visual style, symbolism and narrative as only a Kubrick film can be. Long but multi-layered, “The Shining” contains stunning visuals — rivers of blood cascading down deserted hotel hallways, disturbing snowy mazes and a mysterious set of appearing and disappearing twins — with iconic performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

Smoke Signals (1998) Native American directors are a rarity in Hollywood. After the early silent film pioneers James Young Deer and Edwin Carewe, the portrayal of Native Americans in cinema turned dark and stereotypical. These social trends started changing with motion pictures like the groundbreaking “Smoke Signals,” generally considered to be the first feature film written, directed and produced by Native Americans. Director Chris Eyre uses the relaxed road-movie concept to create a funny and unpretentious look at Native Americans in the nation’s cinema and culture. The mostly Native American cast features Adam Beach and Evan Adams as the two road warriors who find themselves on a hilarious adventure. Beneath the highly entertaining façade, the film acquainted non-Native American audiences with real insights into the indigenous Americans’ culture. Sherman Alexie penned the witty, droll script based his book “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” This Miramax release was a big hit on the independent film circuit and won numerous awards, including a Sundance award.

Something Good – Negro Kiss (1898) According to scholars and archivists, this recently discovered 29-second film may represent the earliest example of African-American intimacy on-screen. American cinema was a few years old by 1898 and distributors struggled to entice audiences to this new medium.  Among their gambits to find acceptable “risqué” fare, the era had a brief run of “kissing” films.  Most famous is the 1896 Edison film “The Kiss,” which spawned a rash of mostly inferior imitators. However, in “Something Good,” the chemistry between vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown was palpable.  Also noteworthy is this film’s status as the earliest known surviving Selig Polyscope Company film. The Selig Company had a good run as a major American film producer from its founding in 1896 until its ending around 1918. “Something Good” exists in a 19th-century nitrate print from the University of Southern California Hugh Hefner Moving Image Archive. USC Archivist Dino Everett and Dr. Allyson Nadia Field of the University of Chicago discovered and brought this important film to the attention of scholars and the public. Field notes, “What makes this film so remarkable is the non-caricatured representation and naturalistic performance of the couple. As they playfully and repeatedly kiss, in a seemingly improvised performance, Suttle and Brown constitute a significant counter to the racist portrayal of African Americans otherwise seen in the cinema of its time. This film stands as a moving and powerful image of genuine affection, and is a landmark of early film history.”

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New Additions to the National Film Registry: 2014

Posted on December 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

The Library of Congress has announced this year’s additions to the National Film Registry. 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant titles are added each year, under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB). The public is urged to make nominations for next year’s registry at the NFPB’s website.

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers.

Here are the new additions to the Registry.

13 Lakes (2004)
James Benning’s feature-length film can be seen as a series of moving landscape paintings with artistry and scope that might be compared to Claude Monet’s series of water-lily paintings. Embracing the concept of “landscape as a function of time,” Benning shot his film at 13 different American lakes in identical 10-minute takes. Each is a static composition: a balance of sky and water in each frame with only the very briefest suggestion of human existence. At each lake, Benning prepared a single shot, selected a single camera position and a specific moment. The climate, the weather and the season deliver a level of variation to the film, a unique play of light, despite its singularity of composition. Curators of the Rotterdam Film Festival noted, “The power of the film is that the filmmaker teaches the viewer to look better and learn to distinguish the great varieties in the landscape alongside him. alone is enough to encompass a treatise on America and its history. A treatise the film certainly encourages, but emphatically does not take part in.” Benning, who studied mathematics and then film at the University of Wisconsin, currently is on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
In 1913, a stellar cast of African-American performers gathered in the Bronx, New York, to make a feature-length motion picture. The troupe starred vaudevillian Bert Williams, the first African-American to headline on Broadway and the most popular recording artist prior to 1920. After considerable footage was shot, the film was abandoned. One hundred years later, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage were discovered in the film vaults of the Museum of Modern Art, and are now believed to constitute the earliest surviving feature film starring black actors. Modeled after a popular collection of stories known as “Brother Gardener’s Lime Kiln Club,” the plot features three suitors vying to win the hand of the local beauty, portrayed by Odessa Warren Grey. The production also included members of the Harlem stage show known as J. Leubrie Hill’s “Darktown Follies.” Providing insight into early silent-film production (Williams can be seen applying his blackface makeup), these outtakes or rushes show white and black cast and crew working together, enjoying themselves in unguarded moments. Even in fragments of footage, Williams proves himself among the most gifted of screen comedians.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
From the unconventional visionaries Joel & Ethan Coen (the filmmakers behind “Fargo” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) came this 1998 tale of kidnapping, mistaken identity and bowling. As they would again in the 2008 “Burn After Reading,” the Coens explore themes of alienation, inequality and class structure via a group of hard-luck, off-beat characters suddenly drawn into each other’s orbits. Jeff Bridges, in a career-defining role, stars as “The Dude,” an LA-based slacker who shares a last name with a rich man whose arm-candy wife is indebted to shady figures. Joining Bridges are John Goodman, Tara Reid, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and, in a now-legendary cameo, John Turturro. Stuffed with vignettes—each staged through the Coens’ trademark absurdist, innovative visual style—that are alternately funny and disturbing, “Lebowski” was only middling successful at the box office during its initial release. However, television, the Internet, home video and considerable word-of-mouth have made the film a highly quoted cult classic.

Down Argentine Way (1940)
Betty Grable’s first starring role in a Technicolor musical happened only because Alice Faye had an attack of appendicitis, but Grable took advantage of the situation and quickly made herself as important to 20th Century-Fox as Faye. Released just over a year before America entered World War II, this film and others starring Grable established her as the pinup queen. The title explains much, with Grable traveling to South America and falling in love with Don Ameche. Carmen Miranda makes her American film debut, and the Nicolas Brothers’ unparalleled dance routines dazzle.

The Dragon Painter (1919)
After becoming Hollywood’s first Asian star, Japanese-born Sessue Hayakawa, like many leading film actors of the time, formed his own production company—Haworth Pictures (combining his name with that of director William Worthington)—to gain more control over his films. “The Dragon Painter,” one of more than 20 feature films his company produced between 1918 and 1922, teamed Hayakawa and his wife Tsuru Aoki in the story of an obsessed, untutored painter who loses his artistic powers after he finds and marries the supposed “dragon princess.” His passion and earlier pursuit of her had consumed him with the urge to create. Reviewers of the time praised the film for its seemingly authentic Japanese atmosphere, including the city of Hakone and its Shinto gates, built in Yosemite Valley, California.

Felicia (1965)
This 13-minute short subject, marketed as an educational film, records a slice of life in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles prior to the rebellions of 1965. Filmmakers Trevor Greenwood, Robert Dickson and Alan Gorg were UCLA film students when they crafted a documentary from the perspective of the unassuming-yet-articulate teenager Felicia Bragg, a high-school student of African-American and Hispanic descent. Felicia’s first-person narrative reflects her hopes and frustrations as she annotates footage of her family, school and neighborhood, creating a time capsule that’s both historically and culturally significant. Its provenance as an educational film continues today as university courses use “Felicia” to teach documentary filmmaking techniques and cite it as an example of how non-traditional sources, as well as mainstream television news, reflect and influence public opinion.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The late John Hughes, the king of both 1980s family comedy (“Home Alone”) and teen angst (“Sixteen Candles”), achieved a career highpoint with this funny, heartfelt tale of a teenage wiseacre (Matthew Broderick) whose day playing hooky leads not only to a host of comic misadventures but also, ultimately, to self-realization for both him and his friends. Hughes’ manner of depicting late-20th-century youth—their outward and inward lives—finds a successful vehicle in the “everyman” appeal of lead Broderick, whose conning of his parents is really an honest and earnest attempt to help his best friend. With the city of Chicago serving as backdrop and a now-iconic street performance of “Twist and Shout” serving as the film’s centerpiece, Ferris Bueller emerged as one of film’s greatest and most fully realized teen heroes. Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones co-starred in the film. This is Hughes’ first film on the registry.

The Gang’s All Here (1943)
Although not remembered as well today as those put out by MGM, 20th Century-Fox’s big Technicolor musicals stand up well in comparison. Showgirl Alice Faye, Fox’s No. 1 musical star, is romanced by a soldier who uses an assumed name and then turns out to be a rich playboy. Carmen Miranda is also featured and her outrageous costume is highlighted in the legendary musical number “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.” Busby Berkeley, who had just finished a long stint directing musicals at MGM and an earlier one at Warner Bros., directs and choreographs the film.

House of Wax (1953)
A remake of 1933’s “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” the 1953 “House of Wax” expanded upon the earlier horror tale of a mad sculptor who encases his victims’ corpses in wax. It added the dark talents of Vincent Price and helped introduce 3-D visual effects to a wide audience. “House of Wax,” produced by Warner Bros. and released in April 1953, is considered the first full-length 3-D color film ever produced and released by a major American film studio. Along with its technical innovations, “House of Wax” also solidified Vincent Price’s new role as America’s master of the macabre, and his voice resonated even more with the emerging stereophonic sound process. Though he had flirted with the fear genre earlier in his career in the 1946 “Shock,” “Wax” forever recast him as one of the first gentlemen of Hollywood horror. Along with Price, Phyllis Kirk, Frank Lovejoy and Carolyn Jones (as one of Price’s early victims) complete the cast. André de Toth directed the film.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
Just prior to World War II, a rescue operation aided the youngest victims of Nazi terror when 10,000 Jewish and other children were sent from their homes and families to live with foster families and in group homes in Great Britain. This Oscar-winning film was directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, writer and director of another Oscar winner, “The Long Way Home,” and was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer, whose mother was among the children evacuated. The film examines the bond between parent and child, uncovering the anguish of the parents who reluctantly acknowledged they could no longer protect their children, but through their love saw a chance to protect them, by proxy if not proximity. Interviews with the surviving children reveal feelings of abandonment and estrangement that often took years to overcome. The film is a tribute not only to the children who survived, but to the people of England who agreed to rescue the refugees when U.S. leadership would not.

Little Big Man (1970)
In this Arthur Penn-directed Western, Dustin Hoffman (with exceptional assistance from make-up artist Dick Smith) plays a 121-year-old man looking back at his life as a pioneer in America’s Old West. The film is ambitious, both in its historical scope and narrative approach, which interweaves fact and myth, historical figures and events and fanciful tall tales. “Little Big Man” has been called an epic reinvented as a yarn, and the Western reimagined for a post-1960s audience, one already well-versed in the white hat-black hat tradition of the typical Hollywood Western saga. Against a backdrop that includes the cavalry, old-time medicine shows, life on the frontier and a climax at Custer’s Last Stand, Penn, Hoffman and scriptwriter Calder Willingham (from the novel by Thomas Berger) upend Western motifs while also still skillfully telling a series of remarkable human stories filled with tragedy and humor.

Luxo Jr. (1986)
The iconic living, moving desk lamp that now begins every Pixar motion picture (from “Finding Nemo” to “Monsters, Inc.” to “Up”) has its genesis in this charming, computer-animated short subject, directed by John Lasseter and produced by Lasseter and fellow Pixar visionary Bill Reeves. In the two-minute, 30-second film, two gray balance-arm lamps—one parentally large and one childishly small (the “Junior” of the title)—interact with a brightly colored ball. In strikingly vivid animation, Lasseter and Reeves manage to bring to joyous life these two inanimate objects and to infuse them both with personality and charm—qualities that would become the norm in such soon-to-be Pixar productions as “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “WALL-E.” Nominated for an Oscar in 1986 for best-animated short, “Luxo Jr.” was the first three-dimensional computer-animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Moon Breath Beat (1980)
Lisze Bechtold created “Moon Breath Beat,” a five-minute color short subject, in 1980 while a student at California Institute of the Arts under the tutelage of artist and filmmaker Jules Engel, who founded the Experimental Animation program at CalArts. Engel asked, hypothetically, “What happens when an animator follows a line, a patch of color, or a shape into the unconscious? What wild images would emerge?” “Moon Breath Beat” reveals Bechtold responding with fluidity and whimsy. Her two-dimensional film was animated to a pre-composed rhythm, the soundtrack cut together afterward, sometimes four frames at a time, to match picture with track, she says. The dream-like story evolved as it was animated, depicting a woman and her two cats and how such forces as birds and the moon impact their lives. Following graduation, Bechtold was the effects animator for the Disney short “The Prince and the Pauper” (1990) and principal effects animator for “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992). Now primarily an author and illustrator, she claims many of her characters were inspired by pets with big personalities, including “Buster the Very Shy Dog,” the subject of her series of children’s books.

Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
The San Antonio barrio in the early 1970s is the setting for writer, director and star Efraín Gutiérrez’s independent piece, considered by historians to be the first Chicano feature film. A self-taught filmmaker, Gutiérrez not only created the film from top to bottom on a shoestring, he also acted as its initial distributor and chief promoter, negotiating bookings throughout the Southwest where it filled theaters in Chicano neighborhoods. He tells his story in the turbulent days near the end of the Vietnam War, as a young Chicano man questioning his and his people’s place in society as thousands of his Latino brethren return from the war in coffins. Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, wrote, “The film is important as an instance of regional filmmaking, as a bicultural and bilingual narrative, and as a precedent that expanded the way that films got made. …” Cultural historians often compare Gutiérrez to Oscar Micheaux, the pioneering African-American filmmaker who came to prominence in the 1920s.

The Power and the Glory (1933)
Preston Sturges’ first original screenplay, “The Power and the Glory,” is a haunting tragedy in sharp contrast to the comedies of the 1940s that established him as one of America’s foremost writer-directors. Contrary to common practice of the time, Sturges wrote the film as a complete shooting script, which producer Jesse L. Lasky, believing it “the most perfect script I’d ever seen,” ordered director William K. Howard to film as written. Compared favorably to novels by Henry James and Joseph Conrad for its extensive mix of narration with dramatic action (Fox Studios coined the word “narratage” to publicize Sturges’ innovative technique), “The Power and the Glory” introduced a non-chronological structure to mainstream movies that was said to influence “Citizen Kane.” Like that film, “The Power and the Glory” presents a fragmented rags-to-riches tale of an American industrial magnate that begins with his death, in this case a suicide, and sensitively proceeds to produce a deeply affecting, morally ambivalent portrayal. The Nation magazine called Spencer Tracy’s performance in the lead role “one of the fullest characterizations ever achieved on screen.”

Rio Bravo (1959)
As legend goes, this Western, directed by Howard Hawks, was produced in part as a riposte to Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon.” The film trades in the wide-open spaces for the confines of a small jail where a sheriff and his deputies are waiting for the transfer of a prisoner and the anticipated attempt by his equally unlawful brother to break the prisoner out. John Wayne stars as sheriff John T. Chance and is aided in his efforts to keep the law by Walter Brennan, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. Angie Dickinson is the love interest and Western regulars Claude Akins, Ward Bond and Pedro Gonzalez are also featured. A smart Western where gunplay is matched by wordplay, “Rio Bravo” is a terrific ensemble piece and director Hawks’ last great film.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
With “Rosemary’s Baby,” writer-director Roman Polanski brought his expressive European style of psychological filmmaking to an intricately plotted, best-selling American novel by Ira Levin, and created a masterpiece of the horror-film genre. Set in the sprawling Dakota apartment building on New York’s Central Park West, the film conveys an increasing sense of unease, claustrophobia and paranoia as the central character, convincingly played by Mia Farrow in her first starring role, comes to believe that a cult of witches in the building is implementing a plot against her and her unborn child. The supporting cast that Polanski assembled—John Cassavetes as Rosemary’s husband, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as their neighbors, and Ralph Bellamy as her doctor—portray believably banal New Yorkers who gain nearly total control over Rosemary’s daily life during her pregnancy. Insistent that “a thread of deliberate ambiguity runs throughout the film,” Polanski maintains that the film’s denouement can be understood in more than one way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PewtQsgN5uo

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Charles Laughton, known for such serious roles as Nero, King Henry XIII and later as the 1935 Captain Bligh, takes on comedy in this tale of an English manservant won in a poker game by American Charlie Ruggles, a member of Red Gap, Washington’s extremely small social elite. Laughton, in understated valet fashion, worriedly responds: “North America, my lord. Quite an untamed country I understand.” However, once in America, he finds not uncouth backwoodsmen, but rather a more egalitarian society that soon has Laughton reciting the Gettysburg Address, catching the American spirit and becoming a successful businessman. Aided by comedy stalwarts ZaSu Pitts and Roland Young, Laughton really shows his acting range and pulls off comedy perfectly. It didn’t hurt that Leo McCarey, who had just worked with W.C. Fields and would next guide Harold Lloyd, was in the director’s chair. McCarey, who could pull heartstrings or touch funny bones with equal skill, started his long directorial career working with such comedy icons as Laurel & Hardy and created several beloved American films.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Through the years, Hollywood’s take on war, honor and heroism has taken many conflicting forms. “Saving Private Ryan” drops ordinary soldiers into a near-impossible rescue mission set amid the carnage of World War II’s Omaha Beach landing. The film’s beginning scenes vividly show us “war is hell,” as William T. Sherman said. Spielberg conveyed ultra-realism with harrowing intensity. “Omaha Beach was actually an ‘X’ setting,” says Spielberg, “even worse than ‘NC-17,’ and I just kind of feel that (I had) to tell the truth about this war at the end of the century, 54 years later. I wasn’t going to add my film to a long list of pictures that make World War II ‘the glamorous war,’ ‘the romantic war.’”

Shoes (1916)
Renowned silent era writer-director Lois Weber drew on her experiences as a missionary to create “Shoes,” a masterfully crafted melodrama heightened by Weber’s intent to create, as she noted in an interview, “a slice out of real life.” Weber’s camera empathetically documents the suffering her central character, an underpaid shopgirl struggling to support her family, endures daily—standing all day behind a shop counter, walking in winter weather in shoes that provided no protection, stepping on a nail that pierces her flesh. Combining a Progressive era reformer’s zeal to document social problems with a vivid flair for visual storytelling, Weber details Eva’s growing desire for the pair of luxurious shoes she passes each day in a shop window, her self-examination in a cracked mirror after she agrees to go out with a cabaret tout to acquire the shoes, her repugnance as the man puts his hands on her body, and her shame as she breaks down in tears while displaying her newly acquired goods to her mother. The film, which opens with pages from social worker Jane Addams’s sociological study of prostitution, was acclaimed by “Variety” as “a vision of life as it actually is … devoid of theatricalism.”

State Fair (1933)
For director Henry King to create a film that celebrated an institution as beloved and indomitable as the State Fair, it required the presence of a cherished and steadfast star—in this case, icon, philosopher and America’s favorite cowboy, Will Rogers. Rogers found a superlative vehicle for his homespun persona in this small town slice-of-life setting. He is assisted by Janet Gaynor (already the Academy’s very first best-actress winner), Lew Ayres and Sally Eilers. Enhancing the fair’s festivities, which include the making of mom’s entry for the cook-off and the fattening-up of the family pig, are diverse storylines rich with Americana and romance—some long-lasting and some ephemeral, rife with fun but fleeting as the fair itself. The film’s authenticity owes much to its director, widely known as the “King of Americana” through films such as “Tol’able David,” “Carousel” and “Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie.”

Unmasked (1917)
At the time “Unmasked” was released, Grace Cunard rivaled daredevils Pearl White (“The Perils of Pauline”) and Helen Holmes (“The Hazards of Helen”) as America’s Serial Queen. In the film, Cunard is a jewel thief pursuing the same wealthy marks as another thief played by Francis Ford, brother of director John Ford and himself a director and character actor. Cunard, in the mode of many women filmmakers of that era, not only starred in the film, but also wrote its script and parlayed her contributions into a directorial role as well. Produced at Universal Studios, the epicenter of female directors during the silent era, “Unmasked” reflected a style associated with European filmmakers of the time: artful and sophisticated cinematography comprised of complex camera movements and contrasting depths of field. With a plot rich in female initiative and problem-solving, Cunard fashioned a strong character who does not fit the image of traditional womanhood: she relishes her heists, performs unladylike physical exploits, manipulates court evidence, carries on with a man who is not her husband and yet survives the film without punishment. In essence, the character Cunard created echoed the woman behind the camera. Today, “Unmasked” serves as a succinct but illustrative example of the role of women in film history, as depicted in fact and fiction.

V-E +1 (1945)
The silent 16 mm footage that makes up “V-E +1” documents the burial of beaten and emaciated Holocaust victims found by Allied forces in the Nazi concentration camp at Falkenau, Czechoslovakia, as World War II ended in Europe. According to Samuel Fuller, who shot the footage while in the infantry unit that liberated the camp, the American commander in charge ordered leading civilians of the town who denied knowledge of the death camp to “prepare the bodies for a decent funeral,” parade them on wagons through the town, and bury them with dignity in the town’s cemetery. Fuller later became an acclaimed maverick writer-director known for crafting films that entertained, but nevertheless forced audiences to confront challenging societal issues. After making “The Big Red One,” a fictionalized version of his war experiences that included scenes set in Falkenau, Fuller unearthed his “V-E + 1” footage and returned to Falkenau to comment on the experience for the French documentary “Falkenau: The Impossible Years.”

The Way of Peace (1947)
Frank Tashlin, best known for making comedies with pop icons like Jerry Lewis or Jayne Mansfield, directed this 18-minute puppet film sponsored by the American Lutheran Church. Punctuated with stories from the Bible, the film’s purpose was to reinforce Christian values in the atomic age by condemning the consequences of human conflict with scenes of the crucifixion, lynching and Nazi fascism. Wah Ming Chang, a visual- effects artist who specialized in designing fantastic models, characters and props, created the puppets for the stop-motion animation and also produced the film, which reportedly took 20 months to complete. The film is narrated by actor Lew Ayres, who starred in the anti-war film “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930). He was so influenced by that experience, that he became a vocal advocate for peace and famously declared himself a conscientious objector during World War II. The Reverend H. K. Rasbach, a frequent adviser on big-budget films such as “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” provided technical supervision and story concept. The film premiered at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., with more than 2,700 in attendance, including members of Congress, representatives of the Supreme Court and 750 leaders from various branches of government.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Author Roald Dahl adapted his own novel, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote a memorable musical score, and producer David Wolper wisely cast Gene Wilder as Wonka in this film musical about a contest put on by an often-sadistic candymaker. Harkening back to the classic Hollywood musicals, “Willy Wonka” is surreal, yet playful at the same time, and suffused with Harper Goff’s jaw-dropping color sets, which richly live up to the fanciful world found in one of the film’s signature songs, “Pure Imagination.” Wilder’s brilliant portrayal of the enigmatic Wonka caused theatergoers to like and fear Wonka at the same time, while the hallucinogenic tunnel sequence has traumatized children (and adults) for decades, their nightmares indelibly emblazoned in memory like the scariest scenes from “The Wizard of Oz.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2pt2-F2j2g
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Film History For Your Netflix Queue Neglected gem

National Film Registry Additions 2013 Include “Mary Poppins” and “The Quiet Man”

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 11:20 am

Think of it as the Hall of Fame or a Historic Landmark designation. This year’s additions to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress:

Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)
Part of the vibrant New Wave of independent African-American filmmakers to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s, Billy Woodberry became a key figure in the movement known as the L.A. Renaissance. Woodberry crafted his UCLA thesis film, “Bless Their Little Hearts,” which was theatrically released in 1984. The film features a script and cinematography by Charles Burnett. This spare, emotionally resonant portrait of family life during times of struggle blends grinding, daily-life sadness with scenes of deft humor. Jim Ridley of the “Village Voice” aptly summed up the film’s understated-but- real virtues: “Its poetry lies in the exaltation of ordinary detail.”

Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
This introspective “contrived diary” film by Stanton Kaye features vignettes from the relationship of a real-life couple, in this case the director and his girlfriend. An evocative 1960s time capsule—reminiscent of Jim McBride’s “David Holzman’s Diary”—this simulated autobiography, as in many experimental films, often blurs the lines between reality and illusion, moving in non-linear arcs through the ever-evolving and unpredictable interactions of relationships, time and place. As Paul Schrader notes, “it is probably quite impossible (and useless) to make a distinction between the point at which the film reflects their lives, and the point at which their lives reflect the film.” “Brandy in the Wilderness” remains a little-known yet key work of American indie filmmaking.

Cicero March (1966)
During the summer of 1966, the Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., targeted Chicago in a drive to end de facto segregation in northern cities and ensure better housing, education and job opportunities for African Americans. After violent rioting and a month of demonstrations, the city reached an agreement with King, in part to avoid a threatened march for open housing in the neighboring all-white town of Cicero, Ill., the scene of a riot 15 years earlier when a black couple tried to move into an apartment there. King called off further demonstrations, but other activists marched in Cicero on Sept. 4, an event preserved on film in this eight-minute, cinema-vérité-styled documentary. Using lightweight, handheld equipment, the Chicago-based Film Group, Inc. filmmakers situated themselves in the midst of confrontations and captured for posterity the viciousness of northern reactions to civil-rights reforms.

Daughter of Dawn (1920)
A fascinating example of the daringly unexpected topics and scope showcased by the best regional, independent filmmaking during the silent era, “Daughter of Dawn” features an all-Native-American cast of Comanches and Kiowas. Although it offers a fictional love-story narrative, the film presents a priceless record of Native-American customs, traditions and artifacts of the time. The Oklahoma Historical Society recently rediscovered and restored this film with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Decasia (2002)
Errol Morris, the director of such highly acclaimed documentary features as “The Thin Blue Line,” “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” and “Mr. Death,” is noted to have sat drop-jawed watching “Decasia” and stammering, “This may be the greatest movie ever made.” Created from scraps of decades-old decomposing “found film,” “Decasia” hypnotizes and teases with images that fade and transform themselves right before the viewer’s eyes. Culling footage from archives across the country, filmmaker Bill Morrison collected nitrate film stock on the very brink of disappearance and distilled it into a new art form capable of provoking “transports of sublime reverie amid pangs of wistful sorrow,” according to New York Times writer Lawrence Weschler. Morrison wedded images to the discordant music of composer Michael Gordon—a founding member of the Bang on a Can Collective—into a fusion of sight and sound that Weschler called “ravishingly, achingly beautiful.”

Ella Cinders (1926)
With her trendsetting Dutch bob haircut and short skirts, Colleen Moore brought insouciance and innocence to the flapper image, character and aesthetic. By 1926, however, when she appeared in “Ella Cinders,” Moore’s interpretation of the flapper had been eclipsed by the more overtly sexual version popularized by Clara Bow or Joan Crawford. In “Ella Cinders,” Ella (Colleen Moore) wins a beauty contest sponsored by a movie magazine and is awarded a studio contract. New York Times reviewer Mordaunt Hall observed that the film was “filled with those wild incidents which are seldom heard of in ordinary society,” and noted “Miss Moore is energetic and vivacious.” The film is an archetype of 1920s comedy, featuring a star whose air of emancipation inspired her generation.

Forbidden Planet (1956)
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox, MGM’s “Forbidden Planet” is one of the seminal science-fiction films of the 1950s, a genre that found itself revitalized and empowered after World War II and within America’s newly created post-nuclear age. Loosely based upon William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” “Forbidden Planet” is both sci-fi saga and allegory, a timely parable about the dangers of unlimited power and unrestrained technology. Since its production, the movie has proved inspirational to generations of speculative fiction visionaries, including Gene Roddenberry. Along with its literary influence, highly influential special effects and visual style, the film also pushed the boundaries of cinematic science fiction. For the first time, all action happened intergalatically (not on Earth) and humans are depicted as space travelers, regularly jetting off to the far reaches of the cosmos. Additionally, “Forbidden Planet” is remembered for its innovative score—or lack thereof. No music exists on the film’s soundtrack; instead, all ambient sounds are “electronic tonalities” created by Louis and Bebe Barren. Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis and, in his debut, Robbie the Robot make up the film’s cast.

Gilda (1946)
With the end of World War II came a dark edge in the American psyche and a change in the films it produced. Film noir defined the 1940s and “Gilda” defined the Hollywood glamorization of film noir—long on sex appeal but short on substance. Director Charles Vidor capitalizes on the voyeuristic and sadomasochistic angles of film noir—and who better to fetishize than Rita Hayworth, poured into a strapless black satin evening gown and elbow-length gloves, sashaying to “Put the Blame on Mame.” George Macready and Glenn Ford round out the tempestuous triangle, but “Gilda” was and, more than 65 years later, still is all about Hayworth.

The Hole (1962)
With “The Hole,” legendary animators John and Faith Hubley created an “observation,” as the opening title credits state, a chilling Academy Award-winning meditation on the possibility of an accidental nuclear catastrophe. Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie and actor George Mathews improvised a lively dialogue that the Hubleys and their animators used as the voices of two New York construction workers laboring under Third Avenue. Earlier in his career, while he worked as an animator in the Disney studios, John Hubley viewed a highly stylized Russian animated film—brought to his attention by Frank Lloyd Wright—that radically influenced his ideas about the possibilities of animation. With his new vision realized in this film, the Hubleys ominously, yet humorously, commented on the fears of nuclear devastation ever-present in cold war American culture during the year that the Cuban Missile crisis unfolded.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Selecting as its focus the “Justices Trial” of the post-World War II Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, rather than the more publicized trials of major Nazi war criminals, “Judgment at Nuremberg” broadened its scope beyond the condemnation of German perpetrators to interrogate the concept of justice within any modern society. Conceived by screenwriter Abby Mann during the period of McCarthyism, the film argues passionately that those responsible for administering justice also have the duty to ensure that human-rights norms are preserved even if they conflict with national imperatives. Mann’s screenplay, originally produced as a Playhouse 90 teleplay, makes “the value of a single human being” the defining societal value that legal systems must respect. “Judgment at Nuremberg” startled audiences by including in the midst of its narrative seven minutes of film footage documenting concentration camp victims, thus using motion-picture evidence to make its point both in the courtroom and in movie theaters. Mann and actor Maximilian Schell received Academy Awards and the film boasted fine performances from its all-star cast.

King of Jazz (1930)
A sparkling example of a musical in the earliest days of two-color Technicolor, “The King of Jazz” is a fanciful revue of short skits, sight gags and musical numbers, all with orchestra leader Paul Whiteman—the self-proclaimed “King of Jazz” — at the center. Directed by John Murray Anderson and an uncredited Paul Fejos, it attempted to deliver “something for everyone” from a Walter Lantz cartoon for children to scantily-clad leggy dancers and contortionists for the male audience to the crooning of heartthrob Bing Crosby in his earliest screen appearance. “King of Jazz” also featured an opulent production number of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The Lunch Date (1989)
Adam Davidson’s 10-minute Columbia University student film examines the partial erosion of haughty self-confidence when stranded outside one’s personal comfort zone. A woman has a slice-of-life, train-station chance encounter with a homeless man, and stumbles through several off-key reactions when they share a salad she believes is hers. Winner of a 1990 Student Academy Award, “The Lunch Date” stands out as a simple, yet effective, parable on the vicissitudes and pervasiveness of perception, race and stereotypes.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The popularity of this Western, based on Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” (1954), has continued to grow since its release due in part to its role as a springboard for several young actors on the verge of successful careers: Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Horst Buchholz. The film also gave a new twist to the career of Yul Brynner. Brynner bought the rights to Kurosawa’s original story and hand-picked John Sturges as its director. Sturges had earned a reputation as a solid director of Westerns such as “Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955) and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (1957). Transporting the action from Japan to Mexico, where it was filmed on location, the story portrays a gang of paid gunslingers hired by farmers to rout the bandits pillaging their town. Contributing to the film’s popular appeal through the decades is Elmer Bernstein’s vibrant score, which would go on to become the theme music for Marlboro cigarette commercials from 1962 until cigarette advertising on television was banned in 1971.

Martha Graham Early Dance Films (1931-1944)
(“Heretic,” 1931; “Frontier,” 1936; “Lamentation,” 1943; “Appalachian Spring,” 1944)
Universally acknowledged as the preeminent figure in the development of modern dance and one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Martha Graham formed her own dance company in 1926. It became the longest continuously operating school of dance in America. With her company’s creation, Graham codified her revolutionary new dance language soon to be dubbed the “Graham Technique.” Her innovations would go on to influence generations of future dancers and choreographers, including Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham. This quartet of films, all silent and all starring Graham herself, document four of the artist’s most important early works. They are “Heretic,” with Graham as an outcast denounced by Puritans; “Frontier,” a solo piece celebrating western expansion and the American spirit; “Lamentation,” a solo piece about death and mourning; and “Appalachian Spring,” a multi-character dance drama, the lyrical beauty of which is retained even without the aid of Aaron Copland’s famous and beloved music.

Mary Poppins (1964)
Alleged to be Walt Disney’s personal favorite from all of his many classic films, “Mary Poppins” is based upon a book by P.L. Travers. With Travers’ original tale as a framework, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, with the aid of songwriters the Sherman Brothers (Richard M. and Robert B.), fashioned an original movie musical about a most unusual nanny. Weaving together a witty script, an inventive visual style and a slate of classic songs (including “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee”), “Mary Poppins” is a film that has enchanted generations. Equal parts innocent fun and savvy sophistication, the artistic and commercial success of the film solidified Disney’s knack for big-screen, non-cartoon storytelling and invention. With its seamless integration of animation with live action, the film prefigured thousands of later digital and CGI-aided effects. With its pitch-perfect cast, including Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Jane Darwell, Glynis Johns and Ed Wynn, “Mary Poppins” has remained a “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” achievement.

Men and Dust (1940)
Produced and directed by Lee Dick—a woman pioneer in the field of documentary filmmaking—and written and shot by her husband Sheldon, this labor advocacy film is about diseases plaguing miners in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Sponsored by the Tri-State Survey Committee, “Men and Dust” is a stylistically innovative documentary and a valuable ecological record of landscapes radically transformed by extractive industry.

Midnight (1939)
Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore light up the screen in this Mitchell Leisen romantic comedy. Liesen is often described as a “studio contract” director—a craftsman with no particular aesthetic vision or social agenda who is efficient, consistent, controlled, with occasional flashes of panache. Leisen’s strength lay in his timing. He claimed he established the pace of a scene by varying the tone and cadence of his voice as he called “ready…right…action!” This technique served to give the actors a proper “beat” for the individual shot. In addition to Leisen’s timing, “Midnight” also boasts a screenplay by the dynamic duo of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Hilarity ensues when penniless showgirl Colbert impersonates a Hungarian countess, aided by the aristocratic Barrymore, until, despite her best efforts, she falls for a lowly taxi driver (Ameche) —all this amidst a Continental sumptuousness abundant in Paramount pictures of that era. The staggering number of exceptional films released in 1939 has caused this little gem to be overlooked. However, in its day, the New York Times called “Midnight” “one of the liveliest, gayest, wittiest and naughtiest comedies of a long hard season.” Reportedly unhappy with Leisen’s script changes, Wilder found the motivation to assert more creative control by becoming a director himself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yNLZrS-bo0

Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
When Frank Stauffacher introduced the Art in Cinema film series at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1947, he was on his way to becoming a significant influence on a generation of West Coast filmmakers. Through the series, he cultivated his knowledge of San Francisco surrealist films of the 1940s as well as the “city symphonies” produced by European filmmakers in the 1920s and 1930s. “Notes on the Port of St. Francis” is the natural progression of Stauffacher’s appreciation for the abstract synthesis of film and place. Impressionistic and evocative, the film is shaped by the director’s organization of iconic imagery, such as seascapes and city scenes, and by the juxtaposition of these visuals and the soundtrack comprised both of music and narration by Vincent Price of excerpts from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1882 essay on San Francisco. Independent film scholar Scott MacDonald speculated that the “notes” in the film’s title may refer to “both the informality of his visuals and his care with sound that may have been a subtle way of connecting his film with the European city symphonies of the twenties.” Throughout the film, Macdonald observed, Stauffacher echoes Stevenson’s theme of the “City of Contrasts” by shooting from both San Francisco Bay and from the hills.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
By turns utterly derivative and audaciously original, Quentin Tarantino’s mordantly wicked Möbius strip of a movie influenced a generation of filmmakers and stands as a milestone in the evolution of independent cinema in the United States, making it one of the few films on the National Film Registry as notable for its lasting impact on the film industry as its considerable artistic merits. Directed by Tarantino from his profane and poetic script, “Pulp Fiction” is a beautifully composed tour-de-force, combining narrative elements of hardboiled crime novels and film noir with the bright widescreen visuals of Sergio Leone. The impact is profound and unforgettable.

The Quiet Man (1952)
Never one to shy away from sentiment, director John Ford used “The Quiet Man” with unadulterated adulation to pay tribute to his Irish heritage and the grandeur of the Emerald Isle. With her red hair ablaze against the enveloping lush green landscapes, Maureen O’Hara embodies the mystique of Ireland, as John Wayne personifies the indefatigable American searching for his ancestral roots, with Victor Young’s jovial score punctuating their escapades. The film and the locale are populated with characters bordering on caricature. Sly, whiskey-loving matchmaker Michaleen O’Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald), the burly town bully Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) and the put-upon but patient Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) are the most vivid. Beautifully photographed in rich, saturated Technicolor by Winton C. Hoch, with picturesque art direction by Frank Hotaling, “The Quiet Man” has become a perennial St. Patrick’s Day television favorite.

The Right Stuff (1983)
At three hours and 13 minutes, Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel is an epic right out of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but thanks to its assortment of characters and human drama, it rarely drags. Director/screenwriter Kaufman ambitiously attempts to boldly go where few epics had gone before as he recounts the nascent Space Age. He takes elements of the traditional Western, mashes them up with sophisticated satire and peppers the concoction with the occasional subversive joke. As a result, Kaufman (inspired by Wolfe) creates his own history, debunking a few myths as he creates new ones. At its heart, “The Right Stuff” is a tribute to the space program’s role in generating national pride and an indictment of media-fed hero worship. Remarkable aerial sequences (created before the advent of CGI) and spot-on editing team up to deliver a movie that pushes the envelope.

Roger & Me (1989)
After decades of product ascendancy, American automakers began facing stiff commercial and design challenges in the late 1970s and 1980s from foreign automakers, especially the Japanese. Michael Moore’s controversial documentary chronicles the human toll and hemorrhaging of jobs caused by these upheavals, in this case the firing of 30,000 autoworkers by General Motors in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. As a narrative structure, Moore uses a comic device sometimes found in political campaign commercials, weaving a message around trying to find the person responsible for a wrong, in this case General Motors Chairman Roger Smith. “Roger & Me” is take-no-prisoners, advocacy documentary filmmaking, and Moore makes no apologies for his brazen, in-your-face style—he would argue the situation demands it. The themes of unfairness, inequality and the unrealized attainment of the American Dream resonate to this day, while the consequences of ferocious auto-sector competition continue, playing a key long-term role in the city of Detroit’s recent filing for bankruptcy protection.

A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
Employing a title suggested by Irving Berlin, screenwriter Anita Loos, working with husband John Emerson, crafted this charming spoof on romance in the workplace that catapulted Constance Talmadge, the object of Berlin’s unrequited affection, into stardom. During the silent era, women screenwriters, directors and producers often modified and poked fun at stereotypes of women that male filmmakers had drawn in harsher tones. The smiles of Loos’ “virtuous vamp”—as embodied by Talmadge—lead to havoc in the office, but are not life-threatening, as were the hypnotizing stares of Theda Bara’s iconic caricature that defined an earlier era. In this satire of male frailties, the knowing innocence of Loos’ character captured the imagination of poet Vachel Lindsay, who deemed the film “a gem” and called Talmadge “a new sweetheart for America.”

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Edward Albee’s 1962 stage triumph made a successful transfer to the screen in this adaption written by Ernest Lehman. The story of two warring couples and their alcohol-soaked evening of anger and exposed resentments stunned audiences with its frank, code-busting language and depictions of middle-class malaise-cum-rage. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton—who were both Academy Award nominees for their work (with Taylor winning)—each achieved career high-points in their respective roles as Martha and George, an older couple who share their explosive evening opposite a younger husband and wife, portrayed by George Segal and Sandy Dennis. “Woolf’s” claustrophobic staging and stark black-and-white cinematography, created by Haskell Wexler, echoed its characters’ rawness and emotionalism. Mike Nichols began his auspicious screen directing career with this film, in which he was already examining the absurdities and brutality of modern life, themes that would become two of his career hallmarks.

Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
Historians estimate that more than 250,000 American teens were living on the road at the height of the Great Depression, criss-crossing the country risking life, limb and incarceration while hopping freight trains. William Wellman’s “Wild Boys of the Road” portrays these young adults as determined kids matching wits and strength in numbers with railroad detectives as they shuttle from city to city unable to find work. Wellman’s “Wild Bill” persona is most evident in the action-packed train sequences. Strong performances by the young actors, particularly Frankie Darrow, round out this exemplary model of the gritty “social conscience” dramas popularized by Warner Bros. in the early 1930s.

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For Your Netflix Queue Lists Neglected gem

2012 Additions to the National Film Registry

Posted on December 21, 2012 at 11:42 am

Each year, the Library of Congress announces the names of films added to the National Film Registry — an assortment that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant.  This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 600. New additions include the delightful comedy “Born Yesterday,” featuring Judy Holliday’s Academy Award-winning performance; and Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” starring Audrey Hepburn. Among the documentaries named to the registry are “The Times of Harvey Milk,” a revealing portrait of San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official; “One Survivor Remembers,” an Academy Award-winning documentary short about Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein; and Ellen Bruno’s documentary about the struggle of the Cambodian people to rebuild in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s killing fields. The creative diversity of American filmmakers is evident in the selections of independent and experimental films, which include Nathaniel Dorsky’s “Hours for Jerome,” Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” and the Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Test film of 1922. Among the cinema firsts are “They Call It Pro Football,” which has been described as the “Citizen Kane” of sports movies; and the 1914 version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which features the first black actor to star in a feature-length American film. The actor Sam Lucas made theatrical history when he also appeared in the lead role in the stage production of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1878. You can nominate your own candidates for next year’s list.  This year’s additions:

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54muV-xIhIU

The Augustas (1930s-1950s)

Born Yesterday (1950)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

A Christmas Story (1983)

The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight (1897)

Dirty Harry (1971)

Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2 (1980-82)

The Kidnappers Foil (1930s-1950s)

Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922)

A League of Their Own (1992)

The Matrix (1999)

The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair (1939)

One Survivor Remembers (1995)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dqo9poiA2Y

Parable (1964)

Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990)

Slacker (1991)

Sons of the Desert (1933)

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)

They Call It Pro Football (1967)

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1914)

The Wishing Ring; An Idyll of Old England (1914)

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Awards Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Neglected gem

New to the National Film Registry: ‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘Bambi,’ ‘Stand and Deliver,’ ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ ‘The Lost Weekend,’ ‘Norma Rae,’ and More

Posted on December 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Each year the Librarian of Congress announces 25 titles to be added to the National Film Registry, created in 1988 in response to Ted Turner’s controversial efforts to colorize black and white films.  It is a sort of virtual library, identifying films of particular cultural, artistic, or historical value and significance.  As usual, this year’s National Film Registry list includes some very high profile films like the Oscar-winning “Silence of the Lambs,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Norma Rae,” the Disney animated classic Bambi and some obscure choices like the micro-budget 1977 film, “I, An Actress” and the 1912 silent comedy A Cure for Pokeritis starring then-superstar John Bunny.

I was very pleased to see some of my favorite classic films on the list, including the screwball comedy Twentieth Century with Carole Lombard and John Barrymore (made into a Broadway musical), The Kid with Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan, and Faces from pioneering director John Cassavetes, whose intimate, improvisational films would inspire a generation of filmmakers.  “Growing Up Female” was a breakthrough in its production, point of view, and distribution. Hester Street, by Joan Macklin Silver, superbly evokes the Jewish immigrant experience with a beautifully fresh and open-hearted performance by Carol Kane.  “Porgy and Bess” is controversial for its portrayal of African Americans but the Gershwin music and luminous Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr.’s performance of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” make it a classic.  “The Lost Weekend” has a heartbreaking performance from Ray Milland in one of the first movies about alcoholism.  Of special interest are documentaries about child labor and the politics of desegregation that were influential in form and content and “A Computer Animated Hand,” a one-minute film from co-Pixar founder Ed Catmull in 1972, a major step in the development of computer animation.

(more…)

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For Your Netflix Queue Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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